Volume 65 Number 84 
      Produced: Thu, 08 Sep 22 14:18:26 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Civil marriage in Israel 
    [Chaim Casper]
Is a psak forever? 
    [Micha Berger]
Is Geirus deOraisa? 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Maqef problem (was A tefillin query) 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Chaim Casper <info@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 7,2022 at 08:17 PM
Subject: Civil marriage in Israel

We have been talking about conversion starting with MJ 65#73 and before that,
the conversation was about Child Converts (starting with MJ 65#71). Martin in MJ
65#81 redirected the conversation to Civil Marriage in Israel. Martin raised
some serious, practical questions about Civil Marriage in Israel. When I read
his post, I immediately thought of asking Rabbi Seth Farber whose organization,
ITIM, deals with these practical questions every day to offer his perspective.
His response to our discussion is below. I have added some translations of
technical terms per our standard procedure.

"Thank you for agreeing to post my comments regarding conversion in Israel. A
lot has been said in the group and allow me to make a few comments. Israel is
today grappling with a singular situation in which there are at least two legal
definitions of who is a Jew. 

"One definition relates to citizenship under Israel's law of Return. One can
make aliya as a Jew only if one has a Jewish grandparent or if one converted in
a recognized community, as long as no parent or grandparent has converted away
from Judaism. 

"A second definition relates to the ability to get married, which is under the
jurisdiction of the chief rabbinate.

"Because of these two definitions, there are at present approximately 480,000
people in Israel classified (in the population registry) as lacking religion (or
chasrei dat). Some of them are actually Jewish, but haven't proved it yet, but
that is not the majority. The overwhelming majority of these immigrants (and
their children) are not observant, and most of them don't see strict halachic
observance in their immediate future.

"While many people like to formulate the question facing Israel today as will
Israel's rabbis turn a blind eye to this and be lenient for the sake of the
future, (and this seems to be the tone of the posts I read), with the liberals
saying yes, and the conservatives saying no, I believe that there are different
questions that need to be asked.

"Firstly, we need to ask what possible halachic (and mainstream halachic)
solutions are available in this singular situation and what is the weight of not
addressing the situation (for example, by enabling civil marriage, which would
create "as someone noted" two classes of Jews). 

"Many mainstream poskim [halakhic legal deciders] "not only Rabbi Uziel who was
a chief rabbi, but also Rabbi Chaim Ozer [Grodinski]" felt that at certain
times, lack of full observance was not a reason to question a conversion. But
more importantly, the standard position regarding the conversion of children is
one that does not demand kabalat ol mitzvot [acceptance of doing the mitzvot]
"and perhaps this provides an alternative approach to the growing challenge in

"In 2010, I began a conversation with Rabbi Nahum Rabinovich z"l, which ended up
leading to the founding of ITIM-Giyur Khalacha [conversion according to the
halakhah] (which is what I assume some of the writers were referring to when
they spoke of liberal conversion). Our approach, which now has the backing of
more than 70 rabbis from mostly religious Zionist circles, sees the kibbutz
galuyot [diaspora] as a factor in driving the conversion issue, and seeks
mainstream halachic solutions (more prominently the conversion of children, even
when their moms dont want to convert) in order to lower the levels of
intermarriage in Israel (and the degree of disenfranchisement the chasrei dat

"Since 2016, we have effected close to 2000 conversions, and this year, we will
be doing approximately 20% of all orthodox conversions in Israel. In 2011, ITIM
sued a group of rabbis who wouldn't recognized the legitimacy of the Israeli
rabbinate's conversions. Today, ironically, the Israeli rabbinate doesn't
formally recognize ITIM-GKH conversions (although a few have passed through the
national bet din). This is a sad statement regarding our generation's priorities.

"The traditional approach was that batei din [Jewish religious courts of law]
respected each other. More importantly, with all the challenges facing our
people, would one say that Rav Chaim Ozer or Rav Moshe Feinstein are worth
relying upon b'sha'at hadchak [times of emergency]?

"Obviously, I have much more to say about this, and anyone is invited to reach
out to me personally. While I very much am interested in the theoretical
question of whether conversion is d'oraita [Biblical] or d'rabanan [Rabbinic], I
think the practical question of how we can help the Jewish narrative given its
complexities in contemporary Israel is something we ought to focus more on."

[Rabbi] Seth Farber, Ph. D.
Founder and Director
ITIM, The Jewish Life Advocacy Center

Thank you, Rabbi Farber!

And best wishes to all for a k'tivah v'chatimah tovah!
B'virkat Torah,
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL
Neve Mikhael, Israel


From: Micha Berger <micha@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 7,2022 at 05:17 PM
Subject: Is a psak forever?

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 65#71):

> Is a psak forever? Example- a pulpit rabbi holds a unique lenient position
> concerning grama on Shabbat. After his retirement, is every future
> congregant (and Rabbi) "bound" by that leniency? Are members of that
> congregation bound to inform visitors of their utilization of the leniency?

I don't have a formal answer to this question. I can only say that in practice,
I've seen new LORs respect the ruling of their predecessor for the first several

And, only once the congregation has put the previous rabbi into their past, do
the rulings slowly start changing.

This also raises the perennial question of how to decide whether we are
discussing mainline vs chumrah [stringency] or discussing qulah [leniency] vs
mainline. It would seem like we would expect chumros to outlast qulos, kind of
like the community were "shavya alei chatichah de'issura [accepts on itself a
stringency]". But how do you know which leniencies are "qulos" as opposed to
just a lack of chumrah?

Tir'u baTov!



From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 6,2022 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Is Geirus deOraisa?

Chana Luntz asks me two questions (MJ 65#83).

> a.	Do you believe in the Oral Torah i.e. what does that term mean to you? 
> b.	If you do, what is in it and how do we know what is in it?

Answer: yes and it means that God provided Moshe - and he started the chain of
what we know as Rabbinic interpretation - with various details of how to fully
inform Jews how to perform commandments that are found in the Written Torah. One
example: circumcision. An example of something not found in the Written Torah in
any clear fashion is conversion.

After quoting me thus:

>> the origin of conversion is a construct: that the B'nai Yisrael leaving
>> Egypt underwent a symbolic conversion ceremony to become (more?) Jewish.
>> That construct is not in the Torah.

she responds:

> No.  That construct is not in the written Torah.  Only if you do not believe
> in the Oral Torah can you say that it is not in the Torah as the Torah 
> comprises both the Oral and Written Torah.

I admit: she lost me there and I am having difficulty fathoming her intention.
Is it or is it not in the Torah? To be generous, I presume she insists that one
cannot separate the Written and Oral Torah. Fine. I hadn't given that any
thought, as what I meant was that conversion is not explicitly noted anywhere as
a Torah concept even though there are indications of converts, at least by
commentators as I noted in that issue of MJ. I repeat: I am not denying the
validity of the Oral Law.

Sammy Finkelman writes on the subject (MJ 65#83):

> it wasn't important to determine in advance who was and who was not Jewish,
> for use by third parties, until the first exile.

Okay, I am flummoxed by that.

Yisrael Medad


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 6,2022 at 07:17 AM
Subject: Maqef problem (was A tefillin query)

Immanuel Burton wrote (MJ 65#83):

> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 65#81): 
>> Immanuel Burton wrote (MJ 65#80):
>>> ...
>>> when I was shown by my father how to put on tephillin, he suggested to me 
>>> that I count the number of windings as I go by saying in my head the verse
>>> "Pote'ach et-yadecha, u'masbia le'chol-chai ratzon", which has a pause
>>> after the third word. In time, I found myself leaving a gap between the 3rd
>>> and 4th loops, not between the 4th and 5th loops, although, to the best of 
>>> my recollection, my father never said anything about leaving a gap.
>>> ...
>> The problem with this verse is that it has two maqefs [hyphens] which might
>> be seen as joining two words into a single word, leaving only five words
>> altogether.
> According to Weingreen, two or more short words closely associated in meaning
> may be joined together using a maqef, and then, for grammatical purposes, they
> are considered as being virtually one word. I would suggest that being joined
> for grammatical purposes means that for other purposes they are still 
> considered separate words.
> ...

I think Immanuel is reading to much into Weingreen's comment. He was writing a
book on Hebrew grammar so to deduce that he meant to be that specific is
questionable. He may only have meant that their separate identity is not

> If one considers words joined by a maqef as a single word, how would that
> affect things like the word count in Shema?

Obviously it would reduce the number of words. I discussed this in my book "A
Time to Speak" (Devora Publishing 2010) page 15:

"If one examines the Shema, one might note that several words are joined by a
makkef (in most editions of the siddur). This occurs 32 times, which is the
gematria of lev, heart. Since words joined by a makkef are to a certain extent
treated as one word, this reduces the number of words in the Shema to 213.
Perhaps one can gain an insight from this by observing that this is the gematria
of the word yegar, which is part of the only Aramaic phrase found in the Torah
(Gen. 31:47), yegar sahaduta, meaning mound of testimony. This name was given by
Lavan while Yaakov called it gal ed, which has the same meaning (Rashi ad loc).
Furthermore, in the Masoretic text, the ayin of shema and the dalet of echad,
are enlarged, also spelling the word ed, as pointed out by the Tur in his
commentary. Why the Torah included the Aramaic name given by Lavan has always
been a mystery. Perhaps it was meant to be a hint to the Shema as being a mound
of testimony if we only take its message to heart.

"In some editions of the Chumash there is a further makkef joining the words lo
taturu (Num. 15:39). This makes no difference to the meaning of the verse but
changes the cantillation from kadma veazla to azla geresh. In such texts the
makkef occurs 33 times, which is the gematria of gal, the Hebrew equivalent of
yegar. There remain 212 words, which is the gematria of riv, a dispute, which
the mound set up by Yaakov and Lavan was meant to resolve."

Martin Stern


End of Volume 65 Issue 84